CINCINNATI – It’s been a long time since the title “antique dealer” was an adequate description for the pursuits of Reyne Haines. That’s just fine with the Web entrepreneur, gallery owner, author, budding TV interviewer, auction organizer and Antiques Roadshow regular.
“This business has taken me to all kinds of different places that I never would have thought I would end up,” Haines said in an interview with Antique Trader. “After being in this business as long as I have, I cringe a little bit when I hear people call me an antique dealer, because that’s not really how I think of myself. There are so many people out there who use that term, it’s almost kind of meaningless today.”
So what’s her preferred title?
“When people ask me what I do, my answer is that I’m a 20th-century decorative-arts specialist. I deal in things that not anyone walking in off the street is looking for: I buy and sell investment-level decorative arts for serious collectors, corporate collections or museums looking for a piece to fill a niche.”
How many dealers can boast of a career path that includes computer programming, insurance sales, stockbroker and model? Things might have been different for a Texas girl of 12 who only wanted to be a hair stylist.
“At first I wanted to be a hairdresser or stylist, but my mother would have none of that because she thought I wouldn’t make enough money cutting hair,” said Haines, whose first name (also a gift from her mother) is pronounced like rain.
“Mother sent me to computer and math science academy since I was in sixth grade, and I discovered I had a knack for computer programming.”
Haines took her talent to the insurance industry, but it just wasn’t enough.
“I made good money, but I wanted the interaction of selling, talking to people,” Haines recalled. Her boss at the time paid for her to go to college, with the goal of becoming a stockbroker.
Antiques and fine arts weren’t even on her radar. “No one in my family ever collected anything other than bills,” she said.
At the age of 19, she moved to New York with the hopes of working for a big brokerage, but found she could keep busy with modeling, something she’d done back home in Houston.
“I lived in Queens, and all I had was clothes and some pots and pans; I didn’t want to bring my Texas life with me, other than my blue eyes, blonde hair and accent. I wanted a new life in a new area, and I wanted my new surroundings to reflect that.
“As I got to know the city, running around meeting with people and going on job interviews, I would stop in antique stores, buying things to decorate my apartment. I didn’t really think much about what I was buying – I just wanted a real ‘New York look.’
“And it didn’t take long before I had an a place full of stuff, to the point where I had to put things away to make room for new things I brought home. When you’re 19 and have a 500-square-foot apartment, it fills up fast.
“I found I was attracted to iridescent glass, whether it was carnival glass, or Tiffany or Loetz, I didn’t really know what it was, I thought it was pretty and so I bought it if I could afford it.
“A friend’s mother came over to the apartment, and she said, ‘I didn’t know you were a collector of art glass,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and she said, ‘The pretty vases,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’
“She gave me this crazy look, which at the time I didn’t understand, but looking back it makes perfect sense. I still didn’t consider myself a collector. This was just about decorating, and having ‘New York’ things. I didn’t even know that some of them weren’t made in this country. I just wanted the style of what I thought a New York apartment should look like.”
He friend’s mother came back two weeks later and dropped off The Collector’s Encyclopedia of American Art Glass by John A. Shuman III. As she began paging through the book, Haines started seeing for the first time the scope and variety of art glass. She began to understand the need to learn about upgrading a collection, the need to focus on quality.
There was only one thing to do.
“I set up at my first antique show, in Queens, and it was a most memorable experience. I didn’t do it as a dealer. I called the promoter and said, ‘I’m a collector who has too much stuff.’ I got one table and brought three boxes. It was the most pathetic thing you have ever seen.
“But you know what? They cleaned me out. The show opened at 9 a.m. and by noon I had nothing left. I said to myself, ‘This is what I should do, buy and sell stuff, ‘cause this is a lot of fun.
“On that very day I met Rosemary Trietsch, my partner on JustGlass.com.
“We were both young kids who didn’t know what we were doing, and I don’t even think she bought anything, but she came to my table and asked if I was going to do this other show the following weekend in Long Island. I said ‘I don’t know,’ and she said, ‘If I do it, would you share the booth with me?’ and I said sure, and we’ve been the best of friends ever since.”
JustGlass.com was launched in 1998 as an auction site, and evolved into a fixed-price portal. It has an online community of more than 8,000 members and offers information on books, shows and more than a dozen glass-collecting categories. The site’s virtual magazine, Just-Glass-online.com, features dozens of articles, reproduction alerts and collecting tips. Haines also moderates the online art-glass discussion group hosted by TIAS.
As if she didn’t have enough to do, Haines is a representative for Bavarian Kunst Ventures Inc., distributor of von Poschinger glass, which was founded in 1568 and is still owned and operated by the same family (www.bavariankunst.com).
She continued to do shows until she moved to Cincinnati, where she established Reyne Gallery (www.reyne.com) in 2002, “purely because I wanted to get things out of my house. I didn’t want to be selling to clients in a residential setting.”
Haines has been a regular on Antiques Roadshow since the show’s second season in 1997. She organized her first online auction with iGavel.com last spring, and plans a second Internet auction for October. She’s also served as a decorative-arts specialist for Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas and Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, N.J.
Her television work has also opened the door to working with celebrity collectors. She will be interviewing hip-hop entrepreneur and fashion designer Russell Simmons for Plum TV, a network aimed at some pretty exclusive ZIP codes: Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Vail, Aspen, Telluride, Sun Valley and Miami Beach. Simmons collects Asian arts and black-and-white photography.
Haines is having fun and making valuable contacts, but there’s also a comforting symmetry to her life and business … and her never-ending collections.
“I started out wanting to be a stockbroker and now I buy investment-level things, so I still consider myself a stockbroker – I just buy tangible items instead of paper,” she said.
“I’ve had this argument with many dealers, to collect or not to collect. A lot of dealers will tell you that you cannot be a dealer if you are a collector. I think, ‘How can you be a dealer if you don’t have a passion for what you sell?’
“I will only buy the things that I find interesting, because how can I get you excited about it if I’m not excited myself?”